The Ghana Employers Association (GEA) says counterfeit goods are destroying indigenous Ghanaian companies.
A survey by the association has identified weak legal framework for the management and protection of intellectual property in Ghana as a major cause.
The study conducted by the GEA in 2014 further revealed that the pharmaceutical and textile industries faced the brunt with huge losses in jobs and revenue.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the association, Mr. Alex Frimpong, in an interview with the Daily Graphic disclosed, for instance, that the textile industry, which used to employ more than 30,000 people, now employed just about 3,000 people.
“The sale of counterfeit goods is not only jeopardising consumer safety but is also a serious problem for manufacturers and distributors of merchandise. Counterfeiting and illicit trade in Ghana has reached a level where it is a real concern for companies and threatening their existence,” he stated.
According to Mr. Frimpong, the GEA survey also identified the long and porous nature of Ghana’s borders, lack of a harmonised policy with neighbouring countries, lack of training and equipment for intellectual crime fighting and customs legislation and regulatory gaps as some of the challenges hampering the fight against counterfeit and illicit trade.
The survey revealed that there was low level public and stakeholder awareness on issues of intellectual property rights and laws, weak intellectual property service and lack of research on IP-related concerns.
On how to effectively address the challenge, Mr. Frimpong urged manufacturers to work more systematically with law enforcement agencies to intensify the raids on factories and warehouses of suspected distributors of counterfeit and pirated products.
He added that intellectual property rights reform leading to speedy resolution of intellectual property rights disputes and heightened intellectual property protection should be considered by Ghana’s parliament.
“A strong legal framework and effective punishment to serve as a real deterrent is needed. Counterfeiting of any product that presents a health or safety hazard to consumers should be treated as a criminal offence with a possible mandatory prison term.
“We expect the government to equip regulatory bodies with the requisite tools to enable them identify counterfeit products and use that knowledge to apply the relevant sanctions to discourage people,” he added.